This is England '90
Rudi Abdallah, Waltham Forest Socialist Party, reviews the first episode of This is England '90.
Shane Meadows has produced the final instalment of the riveting drama spin-off from 2006's big screen hit This is England. The euphoria coursing through this episode is epitomised by a heady mix of drugs, friendship, political upheaval and music, especially the Stone Roses.
It's the most optimistic offering of the three mini-series. 2010's This is England '86 kept exploring its big screen cousin's harrowing themes. It showed disaffected kids in a monochrome, hope-starved world of a northern, working-class town. This segued into 2011's equally bleak This is England '88, which saw the gang torn apart by treachery and depression.
Now, the scooter boys and skinheads of the previous two series have morphed into (Stone Roses singer) Ian Brown clones clad in baggy regalia and technicolour tops that could give you tinnitus.
Clips of a swaggering Shaun Ryder sit comfortably next to the anti-poll tax riots, embodying perfectly the sense that young people felt empowered, in part by music, to break the Thatcherite shackles of the previous eleven years.
The acting is still impeccable. The impressive Lol (Vicky McClure) jokes alongside fellow dinner lady Kelly (Chanel Cresswell); Gadget (Andrew Ellis) is the same endearing scruff-bag thinking only of his belly ('everybody loves chips!').
Woody (Joe Gilgun), is more relaxed than ever. Only Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) drifts unhappily, making him a lone dark cloud in an otherwise opal sky.
Meadows is a master of conveying mood. The unfamiliar optimism of his new world stems from wider political change, notably Margaret Thatcher's political demise in 1990. Even though the Conservatives retained power until 1997, Meadows wants to show that Thatcher's departure caused a volcanic eruption of joy across northern working-class communities, which sang of new opportunities.
When the gang dance deliriously to 'Fool's Gold' at the Madchester disco, the music opens up a world they feel they can own, whatever it throws at them.
As in 1990, we now have a Conservative government. Seismic political change has occurred which has energised young people, mainly those on the left. Unlike 1990, there is no evident musical movement absorbing and articulating the fountain of hope.
The episode's success lies primarily in the evergreen attraction of rebelling against the establishment. This includes aggravating your parents with a love of long-haired frontmen, drug taking and, most importantly, jumping about to some of the greatest music ever written with your friends.
Thanks to the consistently phenomenal acting, these attractions are presented in a completely natural and sympathetic way.
The three remaining episodes of This is England '90 are shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sunday 20 and 27 September and 4 October
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